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C2MTL Manages Its Conference Via UHF RFID

Organizers of the C2MTL 2014 event used Connect&Go's RFID readers at gates to provide fast event access to attendees, as well as RFID chandeliers to monitor traffic within several zones at the conference.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 26, 2014

Connect&Go, a Montreal spinoff company of RFID Academia, has commercialized an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) attendance and traffic flow solution for conferences, following the deployment of its system at this year's C2MTL conference. Unlike Connect&Go's other solutions for concerts—which consist of NFC high-frequency (HF) RFID tags embedded in wristbands and RFID readers installed at various tap points throughout the venue—the UHF solution is designed to be completely undisruptive. An attendee puts a lanyard around his or her neck and proceeds through an access gate. All data collected regarding that individual's location is then managed based on reads from UHF readers built into gates and chandeliers within the conference hall.

C2MTL (short for "Commerce + Creativity in Montreal") is intended to be as much a festival as a business conference. The solution was designed to meet the needs of conference organizers for technology that would help them better understand attendees' movements—for planning purposes—as well as enable guests to enter the site without requiring them to present their credentials.

At each side of an admission gate, C2MTL's organizers installed a Connect&Go RFID tower, with a reader antenna on one side and an RF-blocking panel on the other to prevent tags from being inadvertently interrogated by adjacent readers.
This year's event—which was held at Arsenal (a former industrial building converted into an art and events complex) on May 27-29—hosted 7,000 attendees, most of whom were senior executives of large companies. These individuals, who paid about $4,000 apiece to attend, heard from such speakers as Mohammad Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and chairman of the think tank Yunus Centre, and movie director James Cameron. They also participated in a number of activities, including immersing themselves in a dry pool filled with plastic balls, in which they donned blindfolds and discussed solutions to business problems with other attendees and speakers.

C2MTL's organizers sought a technology solution that would help them identify attendees' locations and monitor how they spent their time during specific programs, as well as provide a means of allowing guests to simply walk onto the show floor without having to present credentials. C2MTL employed Martin Enault as its VP of partnerships and technology to help bring such technology to the 2014 event. Enault, the founder of events RFID technology firm Intellitix, who has considerable background in RFID technology, wanted a solution that would be more hands-free than traditional RFID-based events solutions, which typically consist of a high-frequency (HF) tag that must be tapped against a reader.

Enault says C2MTL considered multiple options for UHF technology and found that RFID Academia provided a system that would offer the level of read precision required for tracking large volumes of people carrying UHF RFID badges as they walked through lanes into the show room. The challenge, Enault explains, was to ensure that every tag would be read as it entered or exited a gate, and that each would be differentiated from other tags in the area that may be passing through another gate or simply milling close to the readers.

Connect&Go offers a solution for access control at festivals, concerts and conferences, traditionally consisting of HF wristbands that wearers can use to obtain access to a venue, as well as at booths, to do such things as post photos of themselves on social-media sites for friends and family to see. In the case of C2MTL, the system needed to instead allow users to simply walk through the conference's entranceways, but also be able to issue an alert if, for example, an individual had purchased admission for another day of the event but not the one during which he or she was entering. In addition, the system needed to be able to identify the quantity of visitors in each zone, in order to help determine traffic patterns and understand attendee behavior.

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